SciFi in Ag: Will Amazon’s Alexa Control the Family Farm Someday?

*Article Notes: This monthly column takes some crazy sounding ideas and applies them to the field of Ag Tech. The purpose of this is purely entertainment, but hey, if we can spread ideas, or ignite imaginations, how awesome is that?*

“Alexa, plant the back 40 today”

“Ok, Ryan, sending that to your autonomous JD 8130”  

“Alexa, how many acres were harvested today?”

“Good evening, Ryan, your 8120 harvested 107 acres and your 2388 harvested 83 acres with an average moisture of 14% and average test weight of 56 lbs reported from your elevator and from your Trimble system.”

“Okay Google, I see brown spots on my soybean leaves in the back 40, what’s the likely cause?”

“Good morning, Ryan, based on weather patterns what you are seeing is likely Cercospora Leaf Blight, I’ve alerted your agronomist to look.”

Amazon’s Alexa has become a central figure in my house, although it can’t control the family farm, I sure hope it does soon.

Now, when I was a kid, I was what some would call a “little rascal”. I loved farming so much that if Alexa or Google Home had existed I would have went from farming the area living room carpet with my toy tractors and combines (seriously, our carpet was long enough that when you ran toys over them the color would change in the light, so I always had a gauge of my efficiency) to controlling the real farm and no doubt making my dad one annoyed person.

Take for example in San Diego, a little girl asked Alexa if she would play dolls with her. Alexa responded by ordering a dollhouse. Innocent mistake, one would think.

Well, a few days later the local San Diego news reported the dollhouse story. Within the news story the reporter, inadvertently, said the command that ordered the dollhouse in the first place — and all the Alexas within earshot of the news story ordered dollhouses!

Aside from kids prematurely taking over the farm (something I most undoubtedly would have tried) the case for Google Home and Alexa in agriculture is not all that out of reach.

The BIGGER PICTURE is that these systems are technically “ecosystems”. As artificial intelligence (AI) comes to rise into different aspects of ag such as agronomy, they can be integrated into these systems. As my company’s mAgri Platform and ecosystem matures, that can be integrated into those systems. As the major equipment manufacturers build autonomous vehicles and further open up their systems, they can be integrated.

I have recently turned my house into a technology Frankenstein. I have Kasa apps and switches running ceiling fans and air purifiers, Philips Hue running lights, a Logitech Harmony Hub running my entertainment systems, and a Nest thermostat running the house temperature. With Alexa in my house, I literally open up zero of those apps on a daily basis. I control all of those functions with just my Amazon Echo Dot powered by Alexa, which is essentially my very own ecosystem.

Notice how in my original example’s, Alexa or Google Home was pulling from many systems? Systems like Trimble, weather data, mAgri Elevator Platform, and whatever John Deere might come up with to communicate to its autonomous tractors. They could even pull from the software your agronomist uses to keep his business organized and create work orders. That’s what an ecosystem looks like.

So whether it’s Alexa, Google Home, or even Facebook Chat Bots, it’s not outside the realm of possibility to accidentally have your 9-year-old take over the farm…I mean control everything seamlessly from Alexa or Google Home. In fact, the new Google Pixel phone is integrating the Google Home ecosystem into your cell phone already so technically they could even use the voice commands on your cell phone to control everything. And users won’t have to open a single web or mobile app to do it.

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